Beverly Stephen - June 2nd, 2014
Aaron Burgau, executive chef/co-owner of Patois in New Orleans, was crowned King of Louisiana Seafood at the seventh annual Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off, held last week in conjunction with the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience and sponsored by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. Crawfish was featured in his winning dish, along with pappardelle, ramp greens puree, and sea urchin butter. He will go on to represent the state in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off the first week of August.
Second place went to Chris Montero, executive chef of Café B in New Orleans, who prepared gulf wild red snapper with Louisiana brown rice and crabmeat risotto, charred grape tomato relish, and confit of local wild mushrooms. Chip Flanagan, executive chef of Ralph’s on the Park in New Orleans, won third place for his cobia with crawfish tails, sweet pea succotash, and Nantua sauce.
I was honored to be one of the judges, along with Susan Spicer (chef/owner of Bayona and Mondo), Susan Ford (president and publisher of Louisiana Kitchen & Culture), and Gaye Sandoz (director of the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator).
Cory Bahr, chef/owner of Restaurant Cotton and Nonna in Monroe, Louisiana, and a former King of Louisiana Seafood, emceed the tense competition and elaborated on what it means to a chef to win. “It’s a springboard,” Bahr says. “It really brought my career to a whole new level. I was named Food & Wine People's Best New Chef, Gulf Coast. I competed on Chopped and won, and now I’m on the advisory council for Atlanta Food & Wine. It really puts you on the map.”
He also emphasized the importance of showcasing the wide variety of finfish and shellfish available in local waters. “Chefs drive the market with seafood or any other product,” he says. “There are six to 10 different finfish, white and brown shrimp. There are at least 10 to 12 different species available at any given time of the year.”
And the 10 competing chefs from throughout the state cooked with almost all of them.